kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
If you haven't heard of the Bechdel Test (where have you been), here are the requirements for a movie, television show, book, play, etc to get a passing grade.
  1. It has to have at least two women in it.
  2. Who talk to each other.
  3. About something besides a man.
Given the plethora of dramas, movies, anime, and manga/manhwa I've watched or read in the past six months, I'm starting to think this just isn't enough. For instance, a lot of the k-dramas pass the Bechdel Test... on total technicalities. Women discuss: what they'll wear out that night; what make-up they use or their nightly moisturizing routine; doing housework; what kind of food to make or how to make it; how their current diet-fad works and whether it's working. It's a lot of women-are-talking ... about things that are stereotypically "okay" for women to discuss: all the things that, in one way or another, are part and parcel of the requirements society pushes onto women for being women.

Shorter version: there's a lot of Bechdel-Test-passing in which #3 is satisfied by conversations that, basically, revolve around the trappings of femininity. The resulting message is that if women aren't focused on men, then they're focused on what could make them attractive to men.

Thus, I suggest we need multiple levels of Bechdel. )

ETA: as usual, see comments for further discussion.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 never get to work on time)
Awhile back I posted about damselfied action girls, and several comments protested my exclusion of non-fighting female characters in the cited animanga. The counter-argument was that although the female characters were not as strong as the male characters (physically, martially), the female characters contributed in other ways. Then, and now, I don't disagree, but I still think such an argument borders on disingenuous if taken in light of a story's embedded standards.

The majority of stories -- in any format, from nearly every culture, at least from what I've seen, read, and researched -- revolve around male characters. It takes a pickax and night goggles to find the exceptions that pass the Bechdel Test, and that's not exactly a really high standard. It's just taken as a given that the center of a story will be the male protagonist. Either he's the hero, right-up, to get the focus, or he's the woman's objective (and therefore becomes the focus) -- even if, in the latter case, the story is predominantly through the woman's point of view. Her perspective is, more likely than not, going to be fixed on the male character/love interest, and that means the male character remains effectively in the center of the viewing screen. Hell, he'll probably be her main topic of conversation even when he's not on-screen.

That's a duh to most women viewers, I think (and if it's not a duh, or comes as a surprise, you may be reading the wrong journal) but it means that the default is to judge secondary/female characters within a framework, or against a standard, of that main male protagonist. Thus while it may be true that women in Naruto or Bleach do contribute in some way to plot, development, or general support, they're still inferior when measured against what makes the hero so great.

If the hero's main qualification (to be declared/considered the hero) is that he's a strong fighter, the women around him may be savvy, sharp, and wildly successful at whatever they do... but they're inferior when measured against the story's criteria for "what makes the main character be the main character". For a story that posits the hero (or love interest) is worthy of this singular attention -- from the narrative or from the main female protagonist -- by virtue of some quality, more likely than not, the female character will have less of that quality in comparison, and in some cases, may even lack it altogether.

I only just realized this as I've begun watching more East Asian dramas, where there is a greater likelihood (especially in Taiwanese, Thai, and Chinese dramas, at least what I've seen so far) that the female lead will have some ass-kicking skills. In some cases, she's actually a better fighter than the male lead. It's when I analyze what's supposed to set the hero apart that I realize: the more a story emphasizes the woman's fighting skills, the more likely it is that what sets the hero apart isn't his fighting prowess but his mental prowess.

Thus, it's the flip side of Naruto and its "smart girls, bad fighters". Where the hero/male prowess is predominantly defined by intelligence, knowledge, or worldly experience, either the narrative or the other characters (possibly including the male lead) considers the female characters as less-intelligent, even outright stupid. The story sets its value-priority on the hero's brain, not his brawn... which means there's plenty of room to be brawny, for the female, but little room to be brainy. The hero's already gotten first and second shares of that quality.

Read more... )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (5 offering bowl)
Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation was a hushed and poignant film about the experience of being lost in an unfamiliar world, where all communication fails: between the male protagonist and his estranged wife, between the female protagonist and her ambitious boyfriend, between the two American protagonists and their inability to bridge the language gap with the people around them. In one light, it both specified Tokyo via its use of specific places within the city, and at the same time used its distance from the average (American) viewer to riff on the stranger-in-a-strange-land trope. In another light, it's also an exceedingly problematic film, in that Tokyo and its denizens are exoticized as something so foreign and incomprehensible that no translation could ever truly be possible.

If you've ever wondered whether the East had an answer to that multi-layered movie that Othered both its environment and its own protagonists, it just might be The Longest Night in Shanghai. If Coppola's story posited that isolation -- being lost with no meaning -- is an unavoidable aspect of life, this story posits that communicating -- finding the translation -- is the key to gaining one's meaning. (And it does it without requiring that anyone be Othered.)

A joint Japan/China production, directed by Zhang Yibai (Spring Subway, Curiosity Killed the Cat), it's nearly pan-Pacific in its casting: Vicki Zhao (PRC), Motoki Masahiro (Japan), Dylan Kuo (Taiwan), Sam Lee (Hong Kong), and other Japanese, PRC, and even a few American bit players. From the DVD description:
Japanese makeup artist Mizushima Naoki (Motoki Masahiro) is in Shanghai on a job. Wandering by himself at night, he takes a knocking from reckless taxi driver Lin Xi (Vicki Zhao), but is luckily unharmed. After some language confusion, Naoki gets into the taxi, mistaking Lin Xi's insistent friendliness as an invitation for a free tour of Shanghai. Little does he know, Lin Xi is planning on taking this well-heeled foreigner on a very roundabout tour of Shanghai, with the meter running. As Naoki's worried colleagues set off in search for him, Lin Xi and Naoki slowly develop a bond that transcends their language gap.

Unfortunately for her plans, he's walked out of the convention center without his bag (containing his ID and passport), his cellphone, or any idea of the name of the hotel where he's staying. He hadn't planned on not going back, but now he's lost somewhere in Shanghai, and despite the taxi driver's multiple attempts to foist him off on someone else (a low-rent motel, the police station, etc), each time she ends up going back for him, unwillingly sympathizing with this lost soul in her city. They're both lost, really: Mizushima's relationship with his partner/lover, Miho, is strained and too business-like; Lin Xi harbors a secret long-term love for her best friend, a mechanic at a local garage.

He understands no Mandarin; she speaks no Japanese. The one language they have in common is (ironically, to me) English, but it's pretty limited, even then. But in that way all people have when faced with someone who is a stranger and doesn't understand what you're saying, the honesty that each begin to express reveals communication despite the lack of translation between them. And, eventually, transcending it; in the end, unlike Coppola's protagonists who are permanently lost somewhere in the translation (including a final line between them that's not even audible to the audience), Zhang's protagonists find themselves in, and despite, translation.

Read more... )

The Longest Night in Shanghai: wikipedia entry / yesasia listing, HK version / amazon listing, JP version
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 so you wanna revolution)
And now, let's move onto the historical and quasi-historical (mythic?) manhwa. The best-known and biggest (and my very first introduction to manhwa, too) is Mi-Kyung Yun's Bride of the Water God, which I already recommended/critiqued at length. The rest of these are relatively recent discoveries.
  • Kim, Tae Yeon: Ban Hon Sa [manhwa: complete; scanlation: stalled]

    Bakaupdates summary: "A series of fairytale-like stories, loosely connected by the ongoing adventures of the enigmatic Hwa Ryungang, a man with strange powers and a connection to the spirit world, and Moohwe, an irrepressible wanderer with a mysterious identity." Complete at seven volumes and unlicensed, but only four volumes are scanlated, and the last update was two years ago. I weep for the last three chapters...

    The story is somewhat episodic, but there are growing hints in the third and fourth volumes of an underlying arc. The problem is that twigging on that arc seems to require some knowledge of Korean mythology, and maybe a bit of shamanistic/indigenous religous-folklore. There are casual references (and some implied backstory) that set off my alerts for myths and folklore, but for which I have little to no reference so only have the sense that this bit has a bigger meaning or implication if only I knew the right stories to read between the lines.
...and more. )

...and I'll cover the dramas in the next post... so very tired, can't keep my eyes open!
kaigou: when in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. (3 when in doubt)
Last week or so, I had a post (now withdrawn pending editing for linkage-consumption) that prompted several folks to give me recs on what-to-read and a few on what-to-watch in re Korean history and folklore. Since other folks asked what I've read and watched already, here's a hodge-podge of fiction & non-fiction read and liked. Some of it's thick academic non-fiction, so maneuver at your own speed; the rest are manhwa. Works by Sarah Nelson Milledge, Laurel Kendall, Bongryol Kim, Ki-baik Lee, Ilyon, Young Ran Lee, Yu-rang Han, Soo-yeon Woon, Hajin Yoo, and Yeri Na. )

I'll continue on with historical manhwa & dramas in a follow-up post.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 angst!)
hollywood happy ending: everything ends happily, the lovers are reunited, and any damage during the course of the show/movie is miraculously repaired, restored, or otherwise rendered null.

hollywood unhappy ending: main character dies, but everyone else gets a t-shirt and learns to love again.

bollywood-musical happy ending: same as for hollywood, but with spontaneous mass musical sequences. possibly also involving helicopters. and extra dance maneuvers performed while riding camels.

bollywood-musical unhappy ending: unhappiness and bollywood musicals are like matter and anti-matter. it's theoretically possible but would likely cause significant tears in the time-space continuum.

korean happy ending: at least two characters die*. the lovers survive. mostly. except for the dead ones.

korean unhappy ending: everyone dies*.

* alternate option: utter insanity and/or hot pokers stabbed through delicate body parts.

...by k-drama standards, Hamlet isn't a tragedy, it's just a rom-com with a higher body count than average.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 scare the devil)
One of the things that didn't really strike me hard until watching Kekkaishi was an implication that I've seen repeated in plenty of other animanga (and western comics) but never really gave much thought: that girls are, by definition, weaker in every single way.

If we're going to argue that "weakness" is based on a physical standard, then in general it'd probably be relatively true to say that, overall and on average, a woman is "weaker" than a man. (This requires we discount the outliers like "men who spend their days sitting at a desk" contrasted with "women who are Olympic athletes".) If the average height of the American woman is 5-foot-3-inches, and the average height of the American man is 5-foot-11-inches, height and weight and basic build would imply that a man, on average, would probably have more basic strength than a woman when it comes to lifting, shoving, pushing, kicking, and other fundamental ergonomic forms of power.

Coming at it from a former athlete's point of view, I sometimes get annoyed with this simplification, though, because there are different types of strength. There's power -- which is explosive strength: the ability to compress one's muscles and release the compressed power into a single drive. This is the power measured by ergometers (rowing machines). Then there's endurance and stamina, which are a type of strength but one that relies on consistent, long-term, repetitive motion and the ability to continue that motion indefinitely. You can have a lot of explosive power but little stamina, and vice-versa. There's also elastic strength, which is repeated compression and expansion of muscles at rapid pace, like in gymnastics. Someone could do six handsprings without breaking a sweat but still have difficulty moving a washing machine. There are other classifications of strength, but that should be enough to make it clear that we can't simply say that one person is "weak" compared to another person based upon one type of measurement.

Now, in most Western comics, when we talk about superheroes, there seems to be a fundamental assumption that what's powering the hero (or heroine) is, underneath it all, a measurement of physical strength. Catgirl can only get so far against Batman; his larger muscle-mass, height, reach, and explosive power outrank hers, so it appears we have no compunction accepting that in an even fight, he'd eventually have the upper hand. Contrast this to animanga, where there's a supernatural aspect, and the source of power is not innate to the person's physical body. It's rooted in something spiritual or supernatural, where the wellspring is within the person but not necessarily on a physical plane. )

Excuse me, I'm going to go rewatch the first five episodes of Seirei no Moribito to make myself feel better.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (5 bookstack)
[continued from part one]

Another recollection: I remember when, as a child, my family visited Britain. We must've stopped at every blooming castle we passed (though in my parents' defense this was because most castles also stored an incredible array of needlework, and as a textile artist, my mother was drawn like magnet to any large collection of embroidery). At one of the castles, I recall there being a family of Americans in our tour-group, and while the children ran around touching everything and chewing gum like cows and sitting on chairs marked with polite notes of "please do not sit", the mother was complaining loudly to anyone who'd listen about the fact that she'd had yet to visit a "real" English pub.

I had no idea what her deal was, since we'd already been to a number of them (and they were all pretty boring from the point of view of a young kid, seeing how women and children were immediately shuffled off to a back room and forgotten, as if in punishment for intruding on a male domain). My mother had that Southern-smile pasted on her face, the kind that any wise Southern child knows means someone is gonna get it, probably pretty soon, so you had to straighten up and fly right if you didn't want that glazed-over gaze to land on you. But on and on that American tourist went, such a stereotype in her own right, petulantly complaining that "all she wanted" was to see a "real" pub.

Stereotypes, cultural currency, more meta-economics, and how to make an honest purchase of someone else's tales. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 something incredible)
Following on from earlier post, processing the notion of stories like Gegege no Kitaro and Nurarihyon no Mago led me to considering the theory that Japan is nearly unrivaled in its ability to self-market. I don't mean simply "sell itself", either; I mean an astute ability to take how it's been marketed by others, and adapt/adopt that other-created perspective as a sort of model of how to market itself. From japanoiserie to ninjas to wabi-sabi, on a economic-cultural level, Japan is undeniably a master of figuring out how other cultures see it, and then turning around and using that perspective to sell to other cultures exactly what they want. It's like a form of ultimate self-exoticization.

With that as a backdrop, and in consideration of yokai-stories like Gegege no Kitaro and similar, it occurred to me that one of the very first introductions westerners have to any culture (including their own) is in the form of children's tales: just-so stories, fables, myths, and fairy tales. I wouldn't know half of the anglo-saxon, celtic, and teutonic lore if not for collections like the Brothers Grimm, or my battered childhood book of "Fairy Tales of the World," wherein I was first introduced to Stupid Youngest Brother or the land that's East of the Sun, West of the Moon (both of slavic origin).

I'm not saying that any culture sets out to create such tales specifically for external production (though Japan's self-marketing can sometimes appear to come awfully close, but only if you discount that it's also selling such perceptions to itself, as well). Just that the fairy tales and myths are an easy way to relate these little stories, and being generally small-ish in terms of comprehension required, the entire package makes for an easier translation. Readers don't need to know the entire history of the Jomon period, or why the Yuan Dynasty was such a radical change, but the little stories bound up in myth and fairy tale often incorporate assumptions about those histories (or the cultures who hold those histories) and before you know it, the reader has incorporated these additional little stories into their personal pantheon.

We always absorb stuff as we read, and children do it with far less discrimination. When a sponge is dry, it soaks up everything; adults are damp to sopping sponges in comparison.

The more one culture's tales can overwhelm or dominate or impress, the greater that culture's currency when it comes to the embedded little stories... and other meanderings on meta-economics, casinos in Mississippi, and the market-distortion of imperialism. )

[had to break into two, so... continued in part two.]
kaigou: under this playful boyish exterior beats the heart of a ruthless sadistic maniac (2 charming maniac)
Thoughts here are mostly stemming from watching/reading Gegege no Kitaro and Nurarihyon no Mago, but it's a topic I've messed with before (see here, here, and here). The bottom line is a really obvious one, but I'll state it anyway just so you know where I'm coming from: informal, orally-transferred just-so folklore is a huge foundation of any culture, whether we agree with it, believe in it, or even realize it.

I don't mean iconic national images; those are often loosely based on historical events (and more often than not, shading into myth as the decades and centuries pass), though they can certainly become part of what I'm talking about, in a way. I mean simpler things, tiny things you've probably heard a hundred times growing up, that you never give any thought to, because these are just Things We Say.

Here's one I bet most Americans may've heard: "don't open the umbrella inside the house, or the house'll get hit by lightning." Who the hell even believes umbrellas will cause lightning, even on a clear day? "Don't kill that spider, you'll make it rain!" Oh, right, there's a scientific cause-and-effect. You can call all these superstitions, and utter nonsense, and stuff that's just Things We Say (But Don't Really Mean). You can say, you're an adult and you know none of this is true... but these are a huge part of our personal stories. )

[not done yet, just too busy to make this all one post]
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 distraction factor)
Books recently read: English: A Novel by Wang Gang, and the Sano Ichiro mystery series by Laura Joh Rowland. There is nothing in common between these two books except for being set in Asia; the former has been translated from the Chinese and the latter is an American book for an American audience, not to mention the roughly three hundred years' difference, too -- from the early Tokugawa to the Cultural Revolution. It's reading them so close together that I noticed the names.

It was really Gang's novel that made me notice, since the translator chose the rather unusual tactic of translating first names. (Surnames are left as-is.) The protagonist is thus "Love Liu", and his classmate is "Sunrise Chen" and his teacher is "Second Prize Wang". At first it was a bit confusing -- in English, we don't translate names per se, but then again, we have names that aren't really word-uses in themselves. Most people don't even know what their names mean, and even if we do, we have words that are only for proper-names (Alexander, Emily, Ethan); if there's a meaning to the name, we use that meaning to describe a thing, not the proper-name (protector, rival, strong).

But Love Liu's name plays some significance, in that there's a long passage where his parents try to explain why they gave him the name "love". If his name had remained in Mandarin, a reader would have to associate non-english-word with "love", and the association would probably only last a page, at most. The name would become -- like our English names -- a name for which any meaning is secondary, even negligible. But with the name translated, you constantly read "Love" when someone addresses the protagonist, just as you can't get away from the fact that Second Prize Wang is, well, probably never going to be first place.

Meanwhile, over in the Tokugawa period -- written, curiously enough, by an American of Chinese-Korean heritage -- we have Ichiro Sano, and the issue of italics and non-default language. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 get down from there)
[continued from pt1]

Where I meander, I'm also busy trying different ways to approach and/or assess the evidence at hand. In case you weren't already aware of my hermeneutic habit trails.

Whenever I read of Authors dismissing fanfiction as intentional (if not outright malicious) distortion, and the way that such tarrings sometimes spread to an implied tarring of all fandom (beyond just the writers and their readers), it strikes me as ignoring a benefit that might outweigh that of the distortion-risk drawbacks.

By that I mean: there is a derivative benefit to Authors from the connections that exist between fans not by virtue of their shared baseline fandom (focus on an original story) but on their participation in fandom itself, as a generalized entity or way of being.

What got me, in considering the dynamics at play, was ... that on the face of it, it'd seem like one would want fans of one fandom to connect with others, and hope for a bit of cross-pollination, as it were.  )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 distraction factor)
Recently, while following links on something else entirely (as usual), I came across a presentation from TED, by Seth Godin (author of Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us). Right about the same time as watching that short video, I also stumbled across a post by [personal profile] obsession_inc called Affirmational fandom vs. Transformational fandom, which posits that:
In "affirmational" fandom, the source material is re-stated, the author's purpose divined to the community's satisfaction, rules established on how the characters are and how the universe works, and cosplay &etc. occur. It all tends to coalesce toward a center concept; it's all about nailing down the details. ... "Transformational" fandom, on the other hand, is all about laying hands upon the source and twisting it to the fans' own purposes, whether that is to fix a disappointing issue (a distinct lack of sex-having between two characters, of course, is a favorite issue to fix) in the source material, or using the source material to illustrate a point, or just to have a whale of a good time.

The two theories/perspectives (Godin, [personal profile] obsession_inc) are wildly divergent in terms of their origins, and (I would argue) to their external intentions -- that is, the former uses the premise as a springboard for activism, while the latter operates independent of any such consequences. So, in some ways, there's only a passing resemblance, but it's there to me all the same.

Meanwhile, of course, reading essays on postmodernism and its clash with feminist theory, and browsing my way through various pseudo-academic (and outright academic) texts on Japanese animation, I kept coming across oblique references to fandom and fan participation. Or, not-so-oblique, if we get into talking about Azuma's arguments. Regardless, this all simmered, and the following illustrated meta-story, or meta-theory, is all that capped off by the discussion on my previous posts over fanfiction and the question of whether fandom has influence on the creative process or whether it's simply a backdrop to what may sometimes be a process independent of any community.

And, of course, the not-yet-dead discussion of Published Authors Behaving Badly when it comes to fanfiction.

So, to start, in this first picture we have ourselves a newly-published original story.

Because when I said it comes together in pictures, I wasn't kidding. Adobe Illustrator FTW, with scattered hints of potentially controversial suppositions, so consider yourself warned. )

FYI: if you haven't noticed, here I'll say it explicitly: the use of 'analysis is my chocolate cake' as a tag indicates 'this topic is open for debate/discussion', while the 'at play' and 'league' tags mean it's genre-focused and fandom-focused respectively, and the 'half-asleep' tag means it's related to fanfiction.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 point and laugh)
I probably shouldn't find this so amusing, but I do. Okay, I take that back. I have every right to find this amusing.

On September 29TH, 2007 -- did you miss that? we're talking almost three years ago -- I posted a novel critique: for those times when wiki just ain't enough. It's linked over on the sidebar (on my DW layout) because it remains a fond favorite for no reason other than how the story is an absolute wealth of amusement on all the ways exoticization -- of another culture and of the inscrutable homosexual -- can lead you wrong, though when writing the review I was too busy being amused in general to bother with the fancy words for the philosophical side of things.

Tonight, I got this anonymous reply. )

Being an author -- in terms of one's interaction with the public -- is a lot like being a cat, I've figured out. When you forget yourself for a moment (or for an entire book) and do the equivalent of raising your leg to lick your own ass and then promptly fall off the sofa, you do not pop up with fur flying to hiss at the humans laughing at you. No, a public-skilled author is like a cat, barely a ruffle and at most an attitude of, I meant to do that. Perhaps a bit of self-grooming just to look like the cat, err, author is simply Too Busy to deign to react to the silly humans' reactions, and then a calm and self-possessed stroll from the room, tail in air. No words are needed for the cat to make it clear that We Will Never Discuss This Again.

The authors I respect as professionals, that's pretty much how they react to negative reviews, at least publicly: they don't give those reviews the time of day, because doing so is only guaranteed to make the humans laugh even harder.

Let this be a lesson to you, kids. Don't go replying to negative reviews -- and if you do, keep in mind that taking three years to get around to (a) discovering the review and (b) getting all self-righteous is only going to lead to (c) a bunch of folks rediscovering the fun all over again. Which, I would hope, is not the author's intended outcome.

[I especially like the part about "try and write a mystery novel"... because I have, and I find it a lot easier if you write it without excessive references to wispy hair. What kind of hair, you ask? Why, just read the review to find out!]

ETA: and another response, in comments, scroll down to enjoy. *rolls eyes*
ETA 2: please remember to sign your comment if you're replying anon... well, unless it's really obvious who you are. And I mean really obvious.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 vortex of stupidity)
Dear Hollywood:

It's not just that you suck. You do that, plenty (and you always have, as has the vast majority of any entertainment anywhere at any time, if we're honest). It's that you spend so much freaking money on things that suck. The result isn't that I'm mad that you suck, I'm mad that you suck in ways that leave me out.

I don't mean in the sense of "I don't see myself on the screen". I sure see plenty of stereotypical representations of myself -- well, I used to, and then I turned 30 and any actress my age who couldn't continue to pass for twenty-two effectively dropped off the screen. (Not counting the few lucky ones who resurfaced in their mid-40s as token powerhouses.)

I mean in the sense that, well, I resent the hell out of what you produce.

It's glorious! It's ground-breaking! It's absolutely breathtaking and awe-inspiring! The CGI, the 3D, the blue screen is a thing of the past and we're into full surround-sound green-screen worlds-only-in-my-head now on the big screen. If Cocteau were alive today, I don't know whether he'd be having apoplexy at directors' inability to do any tricks in-camera these days, or whether he'd be kicking Cameron's ass for Director Most Likely To Spend 98% Of The Budget On Effects.

But I resent it, because what's a glorious visual is absolutely the most incredibly mediocre -- if not outright pathetic -- story. It's like, somewhere along the way, you guys forgot that your job is to tell *stories*, or you just got tired at how much that's, y'know, HARD WORK, and you figured if you just threw a whole bunch of *pretty pictures* at us, we wouldn't notice the big honking lack of STORY. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (5 ganesha)
Go read [personal profile] manifesta's the reality of oppression and the fantasy of freedom, a followup/contemplation prompted by my frustration about SFF v contemporary in YA. Hers is a most excellent post that's not only a great deal more succinct than anything I ever manage, but also civilly calm and nail-hammer-bang at the same time.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 break out of prison)
Read these anyway, because they're worth the time.
  • University of Fantasy's hush hush, the designated love interest and gender relations in YA
  • bookshop's Bad Romance (or, YA & Rape Culture)
  • Fugitivus' Another post about rape
  • Inwhichagirl's Why YA Romance Needs to Change
  • Shapely Prose's Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced
  • Feministe's Predatory Theory
  • YesMeansYes' Shroedinger’s Rapist And The Imagined Right To Intrude and Boundaries
    Note: obvious potential triggers, given all posts are about rape and/or rape culture.

    For those of you coming here after the dust settled, here's a quick summary. I asked for people to list any YA story details they'd like to read, wherein the story's basic plot would be "ordinary girl defeats stalker-rapist, wins the day and love in the process (and that true love ain't with the stalker-rapist, either)."

    The comments started piling up, and... well. Most replies were overwhelmingly positive, and even the critical comments were still polite, don't get me wrong. But taken as an overwhelming whole of all the replies together, it became impossible to ignore that something was really wrong, and the majorly-revised post below was my answer to what I saw going down.

    I'm not sure where things failed per communication, but come on.

    I'm not enjoying being jumped on by readers assuming that because I didn't put up a neon sign that says YES NOT-USIAN IS OKAY and instead only said "anywhere in this world" that I must automatically be US-only and US-biased. Way I see it, if someone is going to interpret "anywhere in the world" as really meaning "only in the US" then that's someone else's bias, and not any bias actually existing in the text.

    I'm not enjoying being lectured about enforcing heteronormativity -- me? seriously!? -- when I thought it was pretty obvious that M/F was not required when I said "does he (or she!) notice [the protagonist] for the first time..." And then revised to remove all pronouns, and then further revised to include both male and female pronouns. What more does anyone want, a freaking neon sign that says YES COULD BE GIRL?

    I'm not enjoying feeling like I'm having to moderate so heavily because people would rather tell me all the things I'm missing when I'd only intended to ask questions to get ideas started, rather than lay down maximum guidelines that anyone had to pick from.

    I'm really not enjoying feeling like I must have really really misstated somewhere, when the focus of nearly every reply has been on either not-this-world fantasy, or future-setting science fiction.

    I know I can be wordy, but it's been a long time since I've felt like I've been this freely misinterpreted, and I'm not feeling anymore like I should be the one apologizing. I've revised and revised and revised, and now I've reached the point where I'm willing to say: no, it's NOT me, for crying out loud. I really am getting read through a lens of other peoples' biases, and I'm not enjoying being repeatedly put on the defensive because someone else is reading too fast.

    As for the last -- the not-our-world, not-our-time versions -- that pisses me off the most. What's the message in there? That to write a story where a girl stands up against the rape culture is only possible and believable if it's not in our world, and not in our present day? That we need to wait twenty years -- or be on another planet altogether -- before it'd be okay for a young girl to tell a guy where to get off and have her demands be respected?

    When the stories doing the worst damage right now are all stories set in our time and ostensibly taking place in our world, how can anyone possibly argue that stories not in our time or not in our world could have near enough power in comparison, let alone enough to undo the damage?

    It reminds me of stories published in the 1800s that described places or worlds where women could vote or where blacks were equal to whites: oh, it's a nice idea, certainly, and the story can even be popular, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that a sexist or racist reader can justify enjoyment by saying, that doesn't really apply, that is not our reality. They can dismiss the story, even as they can pay lip service by saying, "sure, if we lived in that world or that time, then maybe we'd all be equal or women wouldn't have to see every strange man as potential rapist or pigs would fly" -- and the real message that comes through is that since we don't live there or then, so none of those lessons need apply.

    And that is not a message that I think is okay, not at all, not when we're obviously up against a trend so horrendous -- that it's not just okay, but right for young girls to be stalked, terrorized, abused, assaulted, raped, and their fears ignored or outright dismissed, and that having suffered through all this that it's not just okay, but good when they then fall in love with their stalker-rapists.

    Yes, science fiction and fantasy have their place. I'd be one of the last to argue otherwise. But in this context, in this genre, the contemporary has a power that cannot be defeated by "what it'd be like in thirty years" or "what it'd be like if we were all blue and living on Pluto" -- it can only be defeated, I've come to believe, by showing our next generation of women that the things they deal with, here and now, can be changed, should be changed, and that we -- the generation who went before, who now produces the works that these younger women read -- are aware of what they face, and we are using our own experiences to give them paths to follow, to lead them out of that goddamn cage of the rape culture, and that yes, as a matter of fact, that we do not believe that the only path to true love is to accept the stalker-rapist, that we call that as bullshit and are here to help them see there is a better life -- a better world! -- possible.

    That's all I'm asking for, all I wanted, to see how many people would be willing to say, to articulate, here are ways and means I'd want to see that better storyline played out. Maybe I should've expressed it in some other way, maybe I should've come up with some easier way for non-writers to outline their response, maybe I should've figured out how to put it to make it clearer that one approach would be to list what readers wanted to read -- and didn't get or find -- either at that age, or now when wanting books to give their own daughters.

    Maybe I should've done a lot of things, including keeping my mouth shut. Since that's always a possibility, I'm going to try that route now, and if you want to push a meme of the same ilk, do it on your own posts.

    This entire post is now frozen.
  • kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
    I can forgive a lot (okay, up to a certain degree) when it comes to storylines between a man and a woman, because I know an author can only push the gender structures so far before the average reader would start to balk. That's just a fact of how we, as people, internalize the gender constructs of our society. (This goes for most societies, not just Western, so I don't think it's a massive over-generalization.) What I can't forgive is when an author is trying to tell me a character has a dominant personality, but picks the wrong way to illustrate this and ends up writing the character as a jerk, instead.

    Recently I was reading a story by an author who usually has a decent sense of characterization; her plots tend to be straightforward, but she has a good handle on pacing. That combined with a deft hand for the psychology can make up for a lack of complex plotting, but then, I suppose not everyone reads for unexpected twists. Plus, this author usually does a pretty good job of exploring the psyche in power exchanges, whether these are the implicit kind or explicit as in BDSM. But a recent release by the author had me gritting my teeth. One tiny -- but oft-repeated -- detail underlined a subtle but crucial behavior that is not 'dominant', so much as a sign the character is a damn prick.

    It's all in the nickname.

    Main female character, we'll call, hmm, Elizabeth. A solid name, not that unusual. She introduces herself as Elizabeth, and in narrative and in dialogue, is referred to as Elizabeth through most of the story. (I believe there's even a snippet of dialogue where her manager calls her by her full name, as well.) In walks Mister Dominant, who's been wanting a chance to convince our dear Elizabeth that he could be The One.

    And then he calls her Bethie.

    No, she corrects him, it's Elizabeth.

    He just smiles... and spends the entire rest of the story calling her Bethie.

    Dear reader, I wanted to punch him. )

    It is, in a nutshell, privilege, and I can't stand it, nor can I respect anyone who plays that game. It's nothing more than belittling or demeaning another as the sole route to making oneself feel greater in contrast. That's not being a Dominant. That's just being a goddamn asshole.
    kaigou: Edward, losing it. (1 Edward conniption)
    Well, you have to start somewhere. (Examples somewhat edited/paraphrased to protect the guilty.)

    ETA: If you're here from the fandomworks comm... well, I'm not really sure why this post got linked to there, because it's not really about fandom per se. It's about writing, and relates to fanfiction only as one springboard towards writing original fiction. If you're expecting a rant about how to write good fanfiction, let alone for a specific fandom, this post ain't it. If you're interested in a low-key rant about derivative writing and doing it wrong, then, welcome.

    1. Grammar.

    When I read the excerpt of an author's story, and the very first line of the story is a run-on sentence lacks a coordinating conjunction.MAYDAY. )

    2. Repetition.

    When I find myself going back to check and make absolutely sure that the work in question was, in fact, associated with some kind of editorial process -- and yes, the publishing company claims to have slush readers and editors -- this is a warning sign. )

    3. Serial numbers, or, "Man, has Cassie Clare got a LOT to answer for."

    In general, I don't have a problem with a fanfic writer who poaches his/her own work for use in an ofic. You'll see the advice all over the place: you can get away with basing an original work on a derived work, as long as you file off the serial numbers.

    All good and well, but how does one know just how much filing is enough? I asked a Tor editor that, once, and the reply I got was this: "If someone who is generally familiar with the fandom reads the story and is reminded strongly of the fandom, then the story is derivative and potentially copyright-infringement. If someone who is generally familiar with the fandom does not immediately think of the original fandom in reading the story, then the serial numbers have been sufficiently filed clean."

    Thing is: the agent reading the story? Possibly familiar. But also possibly not. The slush reader? Same. The editor? Same. The problem is, if any of the usual gatekeepers (agent, slush, editor) are not generally familiar with the fandom, their silence does not mean that the story passes the serial-number test. It could just as easily mean they've never bloody well heard of the fandom, and thus are not qualified to gauge if the filing was sufficient.

    What, you ask, does it mean to be 'generally familiar'? )

    sometimes I really wish I got a link-warning, a la linkspam, when I end up on metafandom. at least so I have some warning and can neaten the place up a bit before everyone shows up.

    ALSO: the whole 'filing off the serial numbers'? Very old analogy. NOT original with me, not by a long-shot. It's a nice visual in the sense that if you're running a stolen VCR ring rehashed fanfic scam 'inspired by' concept-story, you can lift huge chunks of it from many places, from Shakespeare to soap operas -- but filing off the serial numbers is what makes it yours in that you're removing the definitive marks that would allow someone else to identify a prior owner/creator of your stolen VCR story.


    kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
    锴 angry fishtrap 狗

    to remember

    "When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

    October 2016

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